Gregg Davidson: Genetics, the Nephilim, and the Historicity of Adam


(Jon Garvey) #41

It all hinges on what characteristics you allow for your “soul.” Scripturally, of course, Adam “becomes a living soul” by virtue of being alive (and even animals are, or have, nepesh.)

But as I’ve pointed out before, if Christianity is true (which is kind of the crux of the whole Adam discussion anyway), then a believer is a new creation, born of the Spirit, and marriage to an unbeliever is the union of “new creation” with “old creation”. And not only is that conceivable, but we see it every day.

There are scriptural injunctions that Christians ought not to be “yoked together with unbelievers”, just as the torah frowned on Jews marrying non-Jews. But nobody calls it bestiality, because the category regarding marriage is “humanity,” not “ensoulment” (whatever that might mean).

(Gregg Davidson) #42

I get the concern, because I share distrust of “God of the gaps” arguments, where it is argued that science has no explanation for item X, therefore God - only to have science find the explanation. I do, however, still view the existence or possession of a soul (or whatever term is preferred) as a non-material gift. If there is such a thing as life after death, it necessitates that what makes us who we are includes something beyond the material/natural realm. I fully expect there to be physiological and neurological aspects to our brains that give us the capacity to consciously think on these things, but they are not themselves the soul. This also means that the soul is not simply passed on to offspring by conception or birth, because it is not a purely material thing. How it happens is a mystery.

(Jon Garvey) #43

Consider the Aristotelian-Thomist concept of the soul, which is hylemorphic. In this, “the soul” is essentially the immaterial organising principle of the matter that makes up the body. It is the form, the “information”. So one no more expects to be able to separate it out than one expects to be able to find a programmer skulking around inside your computer.

Seen from the material angle (hat-tip to an article linked by Josh, here), the soul is an emergent property of the body produced by generation. It cannot be predicted from the elements of the body (or it would not be emergent), and neither can we do a Frankenstein, put the elements of the body together, and obtain a living soul.

At most, one could imagine that we some day might be able to do artificially what God has created through nature, and create a functioning human. But that would not invalidate the idea of the soul, but simple show that men can create souls by imitating God… but we’re a long way from that being a practical theological problem.

(Gregg Davidson) #44

I had to look up “hylemorphic.” Learning has taken place (if I can just retain that memory). :grinning:

(John Harshman) #45

Technically true? I’d say it’s true in all reasonable meanings of the term. While bestiality exists, is it a universal practice, which is what you would need? Because to get the population genetics we see today, just about every Adamite would have to have done it for years. Yes, I think that’s an argument. Nor do you have any evidence of what God’s mandates are. Why, you probably even wear mixed fabrics on occasion, and I expect you’ve never killed a witch.

The defense that God is incomprehensible is where all those questions end up. Oddly, people still claim to know a lot about a lot about God, for example that he loves you, or forbids this and that, that he wants to save you, etc. So I find this convenient defense to be inconsistently applied. Someone not a convinced Christian might find some of these conundra to be an argument against the hypothesis, even against the existence of such a god. The argument from mysterious ways doesn’t fly.

As it stands, the various characteristics and meanings offered in this thread alone render the concept nearly meaningless and impossible to discuss coherently.

(Jon Garvey) #46

No worse than most terms with a long history and universal applicability (as “nature”, “heart”, “world”, “spirit”, “free”, “sense”, “rational”, etc, etc.

We’re discussing (at root) the Hebrew concept of “nepesh” which Adam became, and traditions of anthropology including Platonic ideas as translated into Catholicism and Cartesian dualism; Aristotelian hylemorphism as translated into Thomism (which isn’t far off the Hebrew concept, as it happens); and finally modern vague notions of “something spiritual or essentially human” that may or may not map to any of those.

Of course, if you dispense with the concept altogether, then “bestiality” has no meaning other than “hybridization.”

(S. Joshua Swamidass) #47

Doesn’t nephesh apply to animals too? @jongarvey @deuteroKJ

(Jon Garvey) #48

Yeah - for the most part it’s broadly equivalent to “life” or “life principle” - which may be said to be more about phenomenology than formal anthropology. You can even talk about a “dead nepesh”. Often it stands for “self” - the psalmist says “Praise the Lord, o my soul”.

In later Judaism, and probably even in later biblical texts, it gets a more anthropological twist - especially I think with the influence of Plato with the hellenization of Judaea, and the increasing discussion of the life to come.

Only a minority thought of “life for the soul after death” in some platonic realm (though it later crept into Catholic Christianity in the idea of sititng in the clouds playing harps). The Jewish idea was resurrection of the body - but that left the question of what survived death to reanimate the resurrection body, which would be the soul, of course.

Aquinas has the same problem in that, whilst “soul” for him is the animating principle of matter (hence hylemorphism), he too has to account for how we can be with Christ after death but before the resurrection. He solves it by differentiating the rational soul of humans from the animal soul - reason being immaterial, it could exist in attenuated form apart from the body, pending the resurrection.

That is way off Descartes, who strictly separated the soul from the body as the “ghost in the machine” and caused all kinds of problems, including laying us open to the total abolition of the soul and subsuming its functions to the physical body - hence the mind-body problem, the denial of free-will, calling consciousness an illusion and so on.

(S. Joshua Swamidass) #49

@davidson thanks for all answers here. This is really helpful for showing the contours of your thought and contributions.

Same is true for most of us.

Yes. I still heed help clarifying what is similar and different so that I can give you full credit and acknowledgement in the work I’m doing. At the moment, it seems that:

  1. You were correctly pointing in the direction of genealogical descent vs. genetic descent, but hadn’t yet narrowed in on it.

  2. With your move on the soul, this makes you really close to Kemp’s model, if not a subclass of his approach. This also has some similarity to Fuz Rana’s position at RTB (@AJRoberts) .

  3. It seems that you do not see value in a de novo creation event for Adam and Eve (except in the sense of a de novo soul). This also puts you closer to Kemp.

Regarding your critical points, and my view:

In your article, you don’t make it clear they are biologically equivalent. Is that a change in your view? Or did I misread you? It seems that you were pointing to neanderthals, who are not biologically equilvaent.

Also, what is the Scriptural and/or theological basis for making a non-material soul the difference between Adam and those outside the gardent? I was hoping this would be non-essential. However, it is critical for you. This is one place where I would disagree, and I think it creates a lot of avoidable theological problems for your model.

This is not fleshed out enough, in my opinion. You say that this is “bestiality” but this raises an immense number of questions that cannot be ignored. @John_Harshman raises some of them. More importantly, bestiality at the time Scripture is written never produces offspring. In your scenario, we are all the products of bestiality, about 50/50 genetically. If it was forbidden, why was it even possible?

There are some specific ways I handle this in the GA, to tackle these questions head one. I’m not sure what you are doing with this.

To be clear, you may not have to answer these questions. It might be for the theologians the crazy scientists like me that are also putting the theology out. This however are not sharp corners that we can ignore.

This appears to be very similar, again, to both Kemp’s view, and also @Andrew_Loke. Just for reference (and not to provoke a deviate), I do not agree with this view.

Brief clarification note about some of the engagement you are getting. @jongarvey and @deuteroKJ are exegetes/theologians who are going to be really helpful to you. @John_Harshman is an atheist who is a really excellent red team in conversations like this. Don’t take anything you are seeing here as overly negative. I’m just trying to map out what you think on these things. I think you have a lot to offer here. Peace.

(John Harshman) #50

No, if you dispense with the concept altogether, then bestiality is not relevant in the current context, since it’s just breeding within species. “Bestiality” still means what it usually means.

If nobody can agree what a soul is or what it does, I’d say that it’s much worse than the other terms you mention, except for “spirit”, which seems the same thing, and “free”, which is incoherent.

(Gregg Davidson) #51

This is a good comment. I do not know how far the writer of Genesis intended us to take nephesh beyond simply having the breath of life. Whether it hints at a soul is a good question, but the answer does not dictate whether a soul exists. That is a separate question.

(Gregg Davidson) #52

pg 30: “It is conceivable that the “sons of God” were hominids, either those of the same biological stock as Adam and Eve, or more distantly related, coexisting hominids.”

(Gregg Davidson) #53

Just to clarify - this is not “critical for me” in my faith. It is only critical for the proposed model. This is perhaps the biggest difference from the GA model. For GA, the image of God is bestowed on both a specially created Adam and Eve, and on all those outside of the garden. It seems to be offered as a way to satisfy those who need a special creation of man, but these same people are not going to be satisfied with the image of God on an evolved population. It raises more questions than it answers. The model I proposed (not defending as truth, but as possible) offers a first couple who are solely in the image of God, with subsequent sin resulting in interbreeding with those who look just like them but were declared by God to be strange flesh.

(Gregg Davidson) #54

I don’t know where this comment is coming from. Scripture does not address whether bestiality produces offspring, only that it is forbidden. When commands against it were written, it was in reference to animals familiar to the Hebrews. I also don’t understand the logic of the question, since the only reason to forbid something is if it is possible. What is the point of forbidding something that can’t be done? As an example, the Mosaic laws also forbid homosexuality. If it was forbidden, why was it even possible?

I think this is getting too caught up in the bestiality label and its emotional trigger. If we move away from the sense of sex with a chimp, and think of biologically equivalent creatures - the “eww” factor should disappear.

In term of us all being products of hybridization, that was the primary point of the paper - how we could be products of both a common ancestral couple AND products of a larger population.

(Gregg Davidson) #55

Note to all:
I am not a frequent contributor to online discussions. Nothing against them, but only so many hours in a day (and there is that day job I have to keep up with). I have appreciated this discussion, and will be continuing it in private conversations. If I don’t add more replies on this thread, it is not for lack of appreciation of the discussion or your input.
Thanks for the opportunity to interact!

(John Harshman) #56

Depends on what you mean by “biologically equivalent”. If they’re some kind of sex-robots, the eww-factor remains. Then again, if these early male humans didn’t think of women as people anyway, maybe it isn’t a problem.

(S. Joshua Swamidass) #57

I understand @davidson. Thanks for joining us here. This has clarified a great deal. Thank you.

(S. Joshua Swamidass) #58